Saturday, June 24, 2006

An attitude of gratitude

Today we are in Vanadzor for a few minutes before we go to the home of a very famous Armenian poet. It is like an excursion for the volunteers who would like to go. On the bus I was able to speak with my LCF, Seda, more which made the trip very enjoyable. I admire her very much. Seda and I spoke about the Armenian church and faith, about movies and music. She is young but so full of life and optimism. She inspires me to learn the language and is very encouraging which is the best teacher I could imagine. I've been very blessed to have her here.

Yesterday was a very special day. After class Stephanie and I decided to go to the polyclinic to deliver a thank you card I made. I know, I know, you're laughing at me but I thought it was very appropriate considering the nurses took the time out of their day to give us a tour last Wednesday, they explained each of the rooms, the procedures and answered all of our questions. I just bought some markers and decided I should have Dr. Karen (our tech trainer) translate a small note for their effort. So, after class Stephanie and I made the 10 minute walk from school to drop it off. We thought this would be quick so we didn't tell our host mothers where we were going. We dropped off the card just fine and were making the return trip up the hill when a man about our age sped up in a car and told us to get in. We both declined but then somehow we figured out that he needed for us to return to the polyclinic. We nodded and turned around, trying to imagine what we could have possibly done to require a return visit. We walked back to the clinic thinking that maybe someone had forgotten something there the other week, or thinking that maybe we didn't give it to the right nurse or something...really we didn't know. The nurse was waiting for us at the entrance and she escorted us straight into the back of the hospital into the office of the Medical Director! We didn't realize at first but then when he introduced himself and said that he was the director of the polyclinic we were both very surprised and awestruck. My card was sitting on his desk, this pitiful little note with pink and orange flowers on the front, and he tried to talk to us (probably assuming we spoke the language because the card was written and signed in Armenian). We used all our vocabulary to explain that who we were, that we were healthcare volunteers, that we knew very little Armenian and then, I like to throw in "I'm American but I love Armenia" "Yes sirum em Hayistan". People like this and really I think it helps bridge the hesitation they feel when we try in our broken language to explain who we are and what we're doing. Plus, I figure if it were me I would like to hear that a visitor is enjoying my country. Anyway, we didn't know what to do or say so I handed him the only thing I had...a flyer we designed to advertise our practicum focus group for Monday. It was written in Armenian and it just had details about who we are as a group of volunteers doing the focus group and then who, what, when, and where. I thought maybe it would explain a little bit better what I was doing and why we visited his clinic. He read it and seemed to agree that it was a good idea. Stephanie and I were nervous at this point, however, because we knew we had to get back for lunch. We got up to leave and that's when the assistant came in with coffee. Before we knew it he was reaching into his desk drawer for a box of chocolates "grand candy". We quickly found ourselves sipping coffee and eating chocolates with the medical director of this clinic. He was telling us about how he enjoys swimming each morning at the pool in Vanadzor and I told him that I thought that was very "arroch" (healthy). I said that I love chocolate a lot but I know that there are foods that are much healthier. The only way to do this with my language skills was to say "I love chocolate a lot, but 'not healthy', healthy...and then I listed off the foods that I could remember "banana, tomato, green bean etc..." That's when he really surprised us. He wrote down on a piece of paper his home phone number and said that any time we are in Vanadzor we are more than welcome to come to his home and eat bananas! I was just overjoyed. He explained that he has a daughter who is 17 who could serve as a translate and also if we ever needed to use his car we were more than welcome. ALL THIS BECAUSE OF A SIMPLE THANK YOU! I just write this to say that I don't know anything. I don't understand one thing that happens in this culture and I can't communicate at all. What I know in my heart, however, is that people like to feel appreciated. They like to be recognized for the things they do for others or even just recognized for who they are as people. If I can say nothing else with confidence about my work here I know that if I can carry some of the lessons you (and by 'you' I do mean that each and every one of you has had such a powerful...beyond what I say or you may realize...impact on my life) have taught me about thankfulness and grace I will be able to better serve my committment.

So, I say thank you to you! To my friends, family, employers and peers, I am here today because of your love and support. It carries me each day and encourages me when I feel like I might be too young or too inexperienced, it reminds me of who I am when I question how I feel or what I do. Thank you, I love you all.


Anonymous said...

I think you're taking this healthy thing to seriously. We all know chocolate is healthy.....:)
How is the coffee over there?
Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

Sarah this was my favorite post yet! I can just imagine that your gracious attitude and appreciation is touching people in Armenia the same way it touches people here in good old Ohio. Keep up the great work! :)
~Lara from FM